Activists won't accept Warren's 'no'

Elizabeth Warren insists she's not running for president, but these groups don't care.

Story highlights

  • Elizabeth Warren has said repeatedly that she won't run for president in 2016
  • But to a group of liberal organizers urging her to do so, her refusals are reason to ante up
  • The reality is that keeping Warren in the 2016 mix helps these groups, too

Washington (CNN)Elizabeth Warren has tried to discourage the groups urging her to run for president. The senator flatly said "no" when asked about running in 2016. She backed Hillary Clinton's likely candidacy in a 2013 letter. And she told CNN a whopping six times -- in one interview -- that she wasn't running.

All of that, though, matters little to the coalition of liberal groups behind Run Warren Run, a liberal draft campaign for the first-term senator. These activists, who hunger for a 2016 option that fits their progressive mold, look at the senator's refusals as a reason to up the ante, not quietly back away.
Their hope that is that their money, organization and manpower can convince Warren, the once little-known Harvard professor, that she could become the first Madam President.
    This dance played out clearly on Thursday when the liberal coalition of and Democracy for Action announced that they are expanding their early presidential state action by opening an office in Iowa and hiring a former Obama staffer -- Blair Lawton -- to run their state operation.
    Their announcement comes two days after Warren told former Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chairman Sheila Bair, in an interview with Fortune Magazine, that she wasn't running for president.
    The Warren vs. Clinton debate
    The Warren vs. Clinton debate


      The Warren vs. Clinton debate


    The Warren vs. Clinton debate 02:07
    "So are you going to run for president?" questioned Bair.
    "No," said Warren.
    Some Democrats -- especially those who want to see another Democratic president -- saw this as a reason for the groups to stop their persistence. But the Run Warren Run reaction to Warren's statement was simple and different: This is why we are doing what we are doing.
    "Sen. Warren is not planning to run for president," said Ben Wikler, head of MoveOn's Washington office. "The whole point is to make the case to her and encourage her to change her mind."
    And in an apparent shot at Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner who has been quietly building a political staff before a likely presidential run, Wikler added, "She is not building a secret campaign apparatus and hoping someone taps her shoulder. She is not floating trial balloons."
    MoveOn, who pledged at the start to spend $1 million on the Warren draft effort, has started to fundraise from their members to prolong the project.
    "Yes, we have been fundraising for the Run Warren Run effort," Brian Stewart, the group's spokesman. "We're confident that our initial $1 million investment is a beginning floor."
    The key words there are "beginning floor."
    In addition to their Iowa office and organizers, the group announced earlier this week (on the same day Warren said "no") that they were kicking off their efforts in New Hampshire, another critical presidential state. These efforts will include multiple offices in the state and a local staff. None of that is cheap.
    For liberal groups, though, propping up Warren is not a selfless act, either. When Warren is involved, MoveOn organizers say, their members become more engaged and excited. And by keeping Warren's name in the mix of prospective 2016 candidates, the groups are also raising their profile and importance.
    For that reason, Wikler and MoveOn are not prepared to say at what point they will buy Warren's "no."
    "So much can change in politics, so much is fluid," the organizer said. "Things that are certain one day, may not be the next. Our focus is on maximizing the possibility that she does."